NSA Building Massive Data Center in Utah

They’re expanding:

The years-in-the-making project, which may cost billions over time, got a $181 million start last week when President Obama signed a war spending bill in which Congress agreed to pay for primary construction, power access and security infrastructure. The enormous building, which will have a footprint about three times the size of the Utah State Capitol building, will be constructed on a 200-acre site near the Utah National Guard facility’s runway.

Congressional records show that initial construction—which may begin this year—will include tens of millions in electrical work and utility construction, a $9.3 million vehicle inspection facility, and $6.8 million in perimeter security fencing. The budget also allots $6.5 million for the relocation of an existing access road, communications building and training area.

Officials familiar with the project say it may bring as many as 1,200 high-tech jobs….

It will also require at least 65 megawatts of power….

Another article.

Posted on July 10, 2009 at 5:52 AM37 Comments


Bernie July 10, 2009 6:12 AM

If you read the articles, you will see that the NSA wants to “decentralize” its operations by building a really big data center. When I first saw this story about a week ago, all I could think was, “You keep using this word; I do not think it means what you think it means.”

On the other hand, maybe the NSA wants to build lots and lots of really big data centers and the article authors (kind of) screwed up.

Ivan July 10, 2009 6:34 AM

Bernie: Maybe they mean ‘geographically’ decentralized… that’s what came to my mind.

Clive Robinson July 10, 2009 7:12 AM

From the little I’m aware of this is “over and above” the allocations for their other duties…

And as I noted on an earlier posting it looks like “cyberwarfare” is opening a few closed budgets.

I have been told that the NSA plan several “national centers” not just for resiliance but to be close to major communications nodes.

Now the question is what sort of trafic monitoring are they going to be doing “officialy” and “unofficialy”.

I guess time will tell…

James Sutherland July 10, 2009 7:18 AM

Well, having their main facilities split between Fort Meade and Utah will be much more decentralized than the status quo of having it all in Fort Meade, at least…

Moreover, they might be building a replicated core which distributed systems will then access, like Amazon S3: distributing some processing work out to the “edge”, keeping storage central but geographically diverse.

SAP July 10, 2009 7:20 AM

Why Salt Lake City?
See this map:
SLC is one of the places with the most internet backbone capacity relative to demand, and functions as a choke-point for internet traffic across the nation.

This seems like an internet project, but not one aimed at defending the nation’s internet from without (those international access points are not in SLC), but from within. It might be similar to the now retired FBI Carnivore program.

pegr July 10, 2009 7:27 AM

This isn’t the only facility outside of Fort Meade. There is a huge “golf ball farm” near Littleton Colorado I’ve seen with my own eyes.

..L July 10, 2009 8:01 AM

@pegr Your golf ball farm might be part of the echolon project. At least that is a project that grows golf balls all over the place (=earth).

Me July 10, 2009 8:12 AM

Conspiracy theorists…sheesh

Check out the cost of power in Maryland vs Utah. This is as much for finances as anything.

Clive Robinson July 10, 2009 10:14 AM

@ Me,

“Check out the cost of power in Maryland vs Utah. This is as much for finances as anything.”

Cops can often be found drinking coffee and eating food at low cost outlets.


Three possabilities

1, They like the low prices
2, They are there to keep an eye on other customers who like the low prices
3, Both 1 & 2

The USGov is generaly not that fussed over large amounts of money (just little sums) and their spending regions have nearly always matched voting power in the houses.

The cost of power although a major concern for corperates appears never to have been high on USGov lists of reasons to do things.

There are a number of reasons why Utah might have been selected.

First off as far as high tech goes it is not exactly a backward state, therefore there is more native talent on the ground.

Secondly what is supposadly the worlds largest database is sitting in the state. It was supposadly put there for climatic and geographic stability reasons.

As others have noted it is kind of in the middle of the spiders web that is the US communications network.

Oh and there is a theory you ocasionaly here that the people in that area are better at keeping things quiet than in other parts of the US.

What the reality is may never be known, it might just be it’s their turn at being “greased” to stop to much “squeaking” as the wheels of power turn.

RyanE July 10, 2009 10:57 AM

I don’t know if Utahns can necessarily keep a secret any better than the rest…

I would think the reason so many get hired on at intelligence services is that the gov’t heavily recruits the returned Mormon foreign missionaries, who are pretty fluent in their assigned foreign language.

Knowler Longcloak July 10, 2009 10:59 AM

@Hark a plot!

Wow … okay … well …. (mutters to self, “Don’t feed trolls, don’t feed trolls…”)

Moving on.

I also may have to do with the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade (the most diverse linguistic unit in the military) being stationed at Camp Williams (the site of the new data center). As well as Camp Williams has two different sets of major power feeds running nearby.

Anonna July 10, 2009 11:12 AM

Not to mention, Utah has a population with diverse foreign language skills… Skills received while recruiting for God’s Army.

anonymous July 10, 2009 11:16 AM

w/r/t power … wasn’t there talk one time about the NSA building their own nuclear plant because they didn’t believe they could rely on the grid?

maybe that’s a bit more palatable in the desert around SLC than in the DC/Balto. ‘burbs. cuts down on the NIMBY factor.

google not helping now .. anyone know more details about NSA and nuclear power?

Dr. David Webb, PhD July 10, 2009 11:43 AM

To be fair, the NSA has sites all over the USA, including Sugar Grove in West Virginia and Fort Gordon in Georgia.

Likely satellite intercept stations

The following stations are listed in the EP report (p.54 ff) as likely to have a role in intercepting transmissions from telecommunications satellites:

* Hong Kong (since closed)
* Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station (Geraldton, Western Australia)
* Menwith Hill (Yorkshire, UK) Map
* Misawa Air Base (Japan)
* GCHQ Bude, formerly known as GCHQ CSO Morwenstow, (Cornwall, UK) Map
* Pine Gap (Northern Territory, Australia - close to Alice Springs) Map
* Sugar Grove (West Virginia, US) Map
* Yakima Training Center (Washington, US) Map
* GCSB Waihopai (New Zealand)

Other potentially related stations

* Ayios Nikolaos (Cyprus - UK)
* Bad Aibling Station (Bad Aibling, Germany - US) - moved to Griesheim in 2004[19]
* Buckley Air Force Base (Denver, Colorado, US)
* Fort Gordon (Georgia, US)
* Guam (Pacific Ocean, US)
* Kunia (Hawaii, US)
* Leitrim (south of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
* Lackland Air Force Base, Medina Annex (San Antonio, Texas, US)

Chris July 10, 2009 12:28 PM

You know here in Utah, where I live and not to far from where this DC will be… we are all waiting for what Utahans call “the big one”. Apparently we are overdue for some massive earthquake that is really going to mess things up. Does that sound like the ideal place for a DC or what!

Tangerine Blue July 10, 2009 12:47 PM


Secondly what is supposadly the worlds
largest database is sitting in the state.
It was supposadly put there for climatic
and geographic stability reasons.

Do you refer to “The Vault” the Mormons carved out of “Granite Mountain” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granite_Mountain_(Utah))? I think that “climatic and geographic stability” claim is part truth and part PR spin.

The Wasatch air is generally dry, but The Vault relies on it’s own colossal climate control. And whoever claimed the Wasatch Mountains are a place of “geographic stability” might be interested to learn about an oft-ignored local geological feature called the Wasatch Fault (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasatch_Fault):

“During the past 6,000 years, a strong earthquake (magnitude greater than 6.5) has occurred approximately once every 350 years somewhere along …the Wasatch Fault. The segments that underlie Salt Lake City and Provo produce a large earthquake on average every 1,300 years. The last major earthquake on the Salt Lake City segment was about 1,300 years ago, and on adjoining segments around 2,100 years ago. Experts note that the fault is overdue for another major earthquake”

So while the PR machine can accurately claim there’s insignifant seismic activity in the area, that’s a bad thing. It’s supposed to be moving. Instead of regular little jolts, the fault is storing the tension, saving itself for something big.

Speaking of big, I find it disturbing how much real estate the NSA needs for its data. I think the stupidity-to-malice spectrum needs its own Richter scale, and this data collections center looks like a magnitude 7.3 with an epicenter two clicks South of stupidity.

Stephanie July 10, 2009 2:13 PM

Perhaps its just a shorter commute from Utah to area 51 than say Maryland.

; )

Joseph July 10, 2009 4:47 PM

SLC was one of the first four locations used for ARPANET. As the internet has grown, most of the major backbones between the east coast and the west coast still go through SLC.

Michael Compton July 10, 2009 5:20 PM

Why do people mock so-called conspiracy theorists? Iran Contra….The mystery of black triangular planes appearing in the skies…illegal NSA spying….CIA drug running…The list goes on. When people cried foul at the time, they were mocked mercilessly as “tin-foil hatters”, and insulted in the most patronizing manner possible – only to be vindicated as these programs were eventually revealed. In spite of this, people still adopt the same sneering tone to deride any suggestion that those with money and power might lie to the citizenry. What gives? What happened to American skepticism and distrust of those at the top? The dynamic simply baffles me.

bf skinner July 11, 2009 8:02 AM

I checked a map and it looks like the only space is slightly to the north of the airport. Isn’t that wetlands?

RH July 13, 2009 10:11 AM

Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to chose a place where HVAC costs aren’t affected by 100+ degree temperatures most of the time? Alaska would make an awesome place for a data center: just add fiber!

Shane July 13, 2009 10:19 AM

@Michael Compton

“In spite of this, people still adopt the same sneering tone to deride any suggestion that those with money and power might lie to the citizenry. What gives?”

It’s partially to do with the law of averages. What you’ve listed is true, but the sad fact is those small revelations are lost in an ocean of alien abduction stories, 2012 prophecies, teleporting Navy ships, magic bullets, Illuminaties, and let us not forget the mind control rays.

You’re bound to get a couple right. But, like prophecy, the stories tend to change to fit the facts as they’re revealed. Triangle shaped flying ships were once alien visitors from planet X who abducted at will, now it’s simply a government spy plane.

If you want to be taken seriously, all that needs to be done is to present serious evidence. That becomes increasingly difficult when the nutters are screaming very loudly and in droves. Kind of wears the rational thinker down to a nub.

Most critical thinkers are quite skeptical, and rightly so. The world is filled with liars and frauds. I would think that if you believe so strongly in the fact that the government is willing to lie to you for ulterior motives, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that anyone else would do the same. We’re all the same species after all.

Shane July 13, 2009 10:35 AM


“Alaska would make an awesome place for a data center: just add fiber!”

Haha, good call. Putin’s Russia probably wouldn’t be too happy about that though 😉

kangaroo July 13, 2009 2:41 PM

@Shane: That becomes increasingly difficult when the nutters are screaming very loudly and in droves. Kind of wears the rational thinker down to a nub.

That should make ya think…

As a wee one first learning about CT’s, I immediately thought that it would be a very useful ploy to have many CT’s if one were actually involved in a conspiracy. Many of the folks involved seemed to have military/intelligence backgrounds from the major players, and most seemed to come out of the major players, even though the world population (even after adjusting for wealth and literacy) is primarily no located among the major players.

Of course, we could assume that I was just much more clever even as a child than the kind of folks who actually run intelligence services…

In some spheres, all we can ascertain with any confidence is our ignorance. That’s the position we must start from — it is not “rational” to simply dismiss that ignorance when the ignorance is actually the sum total of knowledge we have. Our best bet is to track the historical record and assume that current behavior matches what has been revealed decades and centuries after earlier operations. Of course, physical plausibility is also helpful (i.e., CIA drug planes makes sense politically and physically, UFOs working in tandem with intelligence services is absurd both politically and physically).

The world is a crazy place. The fact that we don’t know what is going on is neither evidence for nor against malicious actions — unlike in a scientific context, where there is no “opponent” and therefore lack of evidence can at least approximate negative evidence. Hanlon’s razor is one of the most idiotic aphorisms ever developed.

When I hear someone using ignorance, per se, as positive evidence for a conspiracy, I can dismiss them as as CTer loon. But when I hear someone arguing that ignorance is positive evidence against a conspiracy, I dismiss them as profoundly historically blind, lacking the perspective that even a short introduction to thousands of years of political machinations makes evident.

Billy Oblivion July 15, 2009 12:15 PM

“””Many of the folks involved seemed to have military/intelligence backgrounds from the major players,”””



J November 13, 2009 10:27 PM

Utah is perfect. The government gets honest, hard working, well educated people. Many of them are bilingual, which only helps. They stay close to their families, which means they usually do not move a lot. Their health and moral habits are top notch. To me, who could ask for anything more when trying to hire 1,200 employees.

Jack September 25, 2010 9:12 AM

My, my. We are so naive.

President (when plans created):
GW Bush, Republican
Utah Senators:
Orrin Hatch, Republican
Bob Bennett, Republican
Congressman, 3rd District
Jason Chaffetz, Republican, current
Chris Cannon, Republican, 1997-2009

Republicans don’t think twice about rewarding districts for voting for their candidates. Dumb ass Democrats base these decisions on criteria such as where it will best serve the needs of the American public or the what is the most cost effective solution for all taxpayers

Michelle November 28, 2010 7:27 PM

Does anyone know the completion date? I hope this means they will build up Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs ( the closest surrounding city area) because the people coming to work there will not have places to eat lunch, shop or just enjoy themselves.

alel June 3, 2014 8:25 AM

I’m thinking they may have chosen utah because of its location. It’s much safer than building next to a coastal area where they may more prone for attacks. Geneva Steele was build in utah during a past war, for that reason. it was hard for its enemies to get to it because of the location. Or maybe they just like to be around mormons…

Moderator June 3, 2014 8:34 PM

Name.withheld, that was childish and offensive. Do not post that, or anything like it, on this blog again.

name.wirhheld.for.obvious.reasons June 4, 2014 2:44 AM

@ Moderator
My apologises–based on the endless profundity that is the subjugation of the “WORLD’S” right to sit reflexively with ones own thoughts. Another component of the aforementioned right is to express the public (and may volunteer the private) mind. At times I make comments that are (as I believe) mild form(s) of levity–and have not (evidenced by posts) mistreated Bruce’s space or the blog commentators.

If you wish to characterise my participation I invite you to do so on the totality of contributions–it is a dismissive statement otherwise.

Moderator June 4, 2014 11:54 AM

Yes, your comment was an abuse of Bruce’s space. That’s why I removed it (twice). You have made good comments before and I hope you will do so again, but that one was both offensive and childish. I am not using the word “childish” loosely; I actually have heard the same attempt at wordplay from an eight-year-old before. You do not have the right to post that kind of material here.

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